Mysterious Thracian Rituals that Only Bulgarians Know About

Sveshtari Tomb
Sveshtari Tomb | © Interact-Bulgaria/Wikimedia Commons
Maria Angelova

The ancient Thracians have left imposing tombs, spectacular sacred places, and rock sanctuaries, but so little is known about their rituals and religious life. They didn’t have a script, and most of their intangible heritage has been lost when their tribes were assimilated together with the proto-Bulgars and the Slav tribes to form the Bulgarian nation. What we know today about the mysterious Thracian rituals is based on ancient historians and rumors, yet they are enchanting and sometimes horrific.

Sun worshipping

Thracians worshiped both the Sun and Earth as gods, seeing life as a perpetual fusion of the two powers. Many of the rock formations that have survived to our time show that the important sun events throughout the year were synchronized with the Thracian ritual calendar. One example is the Door of the Sun megalith near the village of Buzovgrad, close to Kazanlak, where enthusiasts gather on the day of the summer solstice to witness how the sun ray passes through a rock opening to land on a special marking on another rock. This simple ancient calendar showed when it was the time for special rituals. Many rock sanctuaries have circles engraved believed to symbolize the Sun for the Thracians.

The Gate of the Sun, Buzovgrad Megalith, Bulgaria

Sacred liquids

Wine, one of the sacred liquids of the Thracians

Human sacrifice to the god Zalmoxis

Some of the Thracian tribes, like the Getae, performed human sacrifice to the god Zalmoxis. A messenger was chosen who was brought to a high rock while below him the people held up three spears. The messenger was thrown onto the spears and if he died, it was considered that his soul went to the god to send the message. If he survived, however, he was accused of being a bad person unworthy of meeting Zalmoxis. Later, Orpheus substituted the human sacrifice with sacrifice that didn’t require spilling blood.

Thracian ritual re-creation on Strandzha Mountain

Burial rituals

Thracian kings and other important people were buried together with their favorite horse and important items they might need in the afterlife. Their eternal home was decorated as a monument to the deceased inside, with elaborate scenes from his life. The bodies were cremated or just laid on a rock bed. After three days of mourning, the friends of the dead started celebrating. To hear a detailed story of the burial rituals, it’s best to visit some of the best preserved Thracian tombs in Bulgaria – Sveshtari Tomb near Rousse, Kazanlak Tomb (only a copy is accessible) and Golyamata Kosmatka Tomb near Kazanlak, Alexandrovo Tomb near Haskovo, or Kuhata Mogila Tomb near Pomorie.

Sveshtari Tomb

Where you can witness and take part in Thracian rituals

Join a Thracian ritual that visits some of the most interesting Thracian sanctuaries on Strandzha Mountain, near the town of Malko Tarnovo, Southern Bulgaria. Ancient Greek hymns fill the air and torches burn while you experience your initiation. You can join an organized event or book a private Thracian ritual recreation with Satvorenie (+359 888053723, +359 895711334; it is best to call at least two weeks in advance).

landscape with balloons floating in the air


Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.

Winter Sale Offers on Our Trips

Incredible Savings

Edit article